Aggies Blank MSU, Remain In First Place
GREENSBORO – There is more to North Carolina A&T football than just All-MEAC running back Tarik Cohen. The Aggies proved it convincingly Saturday afternoon at Aggie Stadium with a 45-0 win over Morgan State.
The Bears (5-5, 4-2 MEAC) and the Aggies (8-2, 5-1 MEAC) came into the game two of four teams in the conference with one loss, therefore, the expectation was for there to be a grueling slugfest for the top spot in the MEAC.
It didn’t turn out that way. The Aggies used a career afternoon from quarterback Kwashaun Quick as he threw for a career-high 249 yards and four touchdowns on 22-for-29 passing. Senior receiver Desmond Lawrence caught eight of those completions for 56 yards. Sophomore receiver Denzel Keyes caught two more touchdown passes after catching three two weeks ago against Florida A&M.
Freshman running back Marquell Cartwright had 62 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. The Aggies showcased a little diversity on defense too. The Aggies shutout a MEAC opponent for the first time since a 28-0 win over N.C. Central on Nov. 23, 2013.
Fifth-year linebacker D’Vonte Grant intercepted two passes, and sophomore Marquis Ragland had nine tackles, three for loss and 2 ½ sacks as the Aggies did not allow a point despite the Bears making three trips into the red zone.
And oh yeah, it case anyone forgot, Mr. Cohen had 56 and a touchdown on seven carries. He also went over the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive season making him the first player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season as a freshman and sophomore.
“Cohen is special,” said A&T head coach Rod Broadway. “We have a lot of good guys. Give the guys upfront a little credit. Tarik is a special talent but Cartwright is a good player too. I thought that Quick did a good job of operating and running the team today. We are starting to develop the type of offense that we need to have around here.”
With the Bears geared to stop Cohen and the running game, A&T’s passing game began to take effect early. Quick completed a 42-yard pass to Xavier Griffin on the Aggies second possession of the game. It led to a 21-yard field goal by Cody Jones to give A&T a 3-0 lead. Grant’s 55-yard interception return on MSU’s next possession gave the Aggies a first down from the Bears 16-yard line. Cohen turned that into a 16-yard touchdown an early 10-0 lead.
A&T’s next drive did feature a lot of Cohen. He carried the ball three times for 27 yards during a 13-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard TD pass from Quick to Keyes as the 6-foot-4 Keyes out-jumped the defender for the score. Keyes’ next touchdown was even more spectacular. He made a one-handed grab with Morgan State’s Antonio Jefferson draped all over his other arm to give the Aggies a 24-0 lead with 1:32 remaining in the first half.
All of sudden a game that was supposed to feature two of the top teams in the conference was turning into a blowout.
“We didn’t make any statement, we just played,” said Broadway. “We just try to make improvements and get better every week. I don’t know anything about statements. We hopefully got a little bit better today, and we can continue to grow as a football team.”
Broadway’s football team went into the locker room with a 31-0 lead after Grant’s second interception gave A&T a first down at the Bears 37. A holding penalty pushed the Aggies back 10 yards, but it did not matter. With the clock running under 40 seconds remaining in the half, Quick found Cartwright on a screen pass that turned into a 47-yard touchdown pass.
“That sucker can play can’t he?” Broadway asked referring to Grant. “Grant has been doing the same thing for us for four years. I am going to miss him when he leaves.”
Grant, who made career interceptions No. 7 and 8 on Saturday, was honored before the game along with seven other seniors on Senior Day. Joining Grant in playing their final regular-season game at Aggie Stadium were offensive linemen Ronald Canty, Olin Leak, William Raymond Robinson III, receivers Quentin Todd, Lawrence, Ashanti Foster-Felder, defensive end Daniel Pinnix and kicker Jose Garcia-Camacho.
A&T’s seniors have two more regular-season games remaining – both on the road – as they try to win a conference title in their final season. The Aggies play at Savannah State on Nov. 15 at 2 p.m., before playing archrival N.C. Central in Durham on Nov. 22 at 2 p.m. The Aggies tied atop the conference with Bethune-Cookman and S.C. State.
“We know the task at hand, obviously,” said Grant. “We all have social media so we know we are in first. Winning a championship is something that hasn’t been done at A&T in a long time, so we feel as if we owe it to the community, fans, students and everyone to play hard every game. We come out every day trying to make it happen.”